Hellloooo! I’m back with another Spotlight interview, and I’m super excited for this one! Amy is an actor, producer, and wielder of swords; she’s also a co-creator of Trials of Ember with Jayme Wojciechowski, who we had in the prior spotlight!
She’s inspiring, has impressive work ethic, and is constantly pushing forward to bring her projects to fruition. Through her journey, she shares interesting perspectives on success, failure, focus, and the power of collaboration. Let’s get to it.
Actor, Producer: Amy Schumacher
Where are you from, and what was the journey like to Los Angeles?
I hail from Seattle, Washington. While earning my BA in theatre at the University of Washington, I also competed on the National Championship Rowing Team. After a bad rowing injury changed my trajectory I found myself on a new path. I traveled to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, to study at the prestigious Ilkhom Theatre School of Drama, a Russian acting conservatory, where I earned my MFA. Upon returning to Seattle, I bounced around the theatre circuit for a couple of years, earning a living by coaching and personal training. It wasn’t until I transitioned into producing that I was able to move to Los Angeles.
How long ago did you move to Los Angeles? What was the transition like? A lot of people want to make the leap and move here, but it can be pretty intimidating.
I cannot believe I’ve been in LA for over 4 years. I love it here! That was not always the case. My first year was hard. Really hard. I went back to Seattle for several weeks and hit STOP for a moment. I check in with myself and understood that I wanted to be in L.A., 100%. That commitment made everything feel so much better. My approach was different, motivated, impassioned. I was ready.
Do you have any advice for others who plan on throwing risk to the wind and making the leap to a new city?
My first piece of advice is to try not to live in both places emotionally. Of course I have people I love back home. I hold a very special place in my heart for Seattle. I love my city, but it wasn’t until I stopped wanting to be in Seattle, while living in Los Angeles, that I was able to thrive here. Once you are here you have to go all in. This is not a town to ‘sort of give it a try’. As actors we learn to make strong character choices. Grey area just doesn’t work. Same goes for the commitment to live in L.A.
I heard from several people that it would take about 2 years to feel like you had footing in this town. Honestly, that was true for me too. I accepted all the advice I could get, I studied other people’s paths, and went to workshops and meet ups. This was all really great, but everyone’s path is really different. You just have to find what works for you. NOT because you think you should do it, but because it fulfills your soul. Otherwise, I can’t imagine how one would stick around here.
Do you find that mentorship in the entertainment industry has been something that’s helped you along the way? Do you have any personal advice as to how one can go about finding a mentor for a new endeavor they’re wanting to embark on, whether it’s self producing, or something in a radically different field?
Yes! I joined a few groups like, Women In Film and We Make Movies. These groups allowed me to meet new people, make friends and find like minded artists. Taking classes in a field of your interest is really helpful as well.
However, above all, collaborating with other artists has been the most beneficial for me. Not only do I get create my own work and learn a lot in the process, it’s fulfilling.
Finding your inner confidence, your voice, and loving yourself is definitely key in living a PermissionLESS life and feeling confident that you’ll find your way. Can you talk a little bit about any defining moments in your life where you started to realize and trust in your potential?
This is hard to answer because I do find myself in positions where I feel less confident. Risk taking is part of what makes being a producer and actor so exhilarating. However, I do occasionally find myself wondering, “how did I get here!”, “what am I doing?!”.
I practice meditation and one of the best and most challenging elements is removing negative self reflection. I really try to avoid that. Actually, let me say, I DO avoid that. When something feels vulnerable, scary, or new, I try to sit in those feelings and navigate the waters with a positive attitude.
This also goes back to why I love to collaborate. I collaborate most often with people I absolutely trust and love. I find when I can encourage my partner to believe in themselves, I find my strength as well. We lift each other up. What’s better than that?!
What would you say has been your most challenging obstacles when it comes to blazing your own path in entertainment through self producing?
This is going to sound like one of those answers we’re told to say in an interview;
Interviewer: What would you say is your worst habit?
Interviewee: I care too much.
I want to do it all! I want to be an action actor! I love big budget action flicks. I also love really vulnerable, quiet, authentic indy film. I also love comedy! I think I’m good at comedy. I do a lot of improv. Wouldn’t it be cool to be a recurring on a sitcom? Yup!
The question is, where do I focus my energy and time. What characters do I create for myself to best display my skills, while also making sure I am committing to projects that fulfill my soul.
One tough lesson I’ve had to learn is that I need to teach the industry how I want to be seen. Long story short, my biggest challenge is deciding what to create.
A lot of people view our industry as difficult because of all the “gatekeepers.” I think gatekeepers are bullshit. Self producing is a form of living PermissionLESS, because we’re out there creating our own work and not letting anybody stop us. You have full control over your series right now. Where do you see the project going?
Please note that I did not mention one of my producing challenges is finding a team as passionate as I am. Working with Jayme on Trials of Ember is awesome! We work very well together. Because of that I think this project can fly!
Did I ever see myself standing on a mountain in 100 degree weather, wielding swords with my good friend? Well actually, maybe I did! But either way, “gatekeepers” are bullshit! Maybe I saw myself doing those things, but did this industry? Probably not.
Trials of Ember features a strong female character, who is a badass without question. Among several amazing artists on this project, the choreography was created by Jan Bryant, a real life badass, without question! If we let stereotypes, stigmas and “gatekeepers” stop us this project wouldn’t exist.
The goal is to create a 6 part series in both 2D and VR. It’s very exciting and also a little scary. For me it’s entering a world that I am not sure I ever envisioned myself. I am learning about VR and creating a fantasy series, both relatively new to me. Not only do we get to choose what happens with this project, we also get to create the world in which these characters live. We are making up the rules and it is so fun! And a little scary. I am trying to enjoy the ride and learn as much as possible along the way.
Do you have any failures that you truly feel shaped and paved the way for your successes with Trials of Ember?
Here I am again with another “How To Nail An Interview For Dummies” type answer.
Can we fail in this industry? If we really try, commit to something and give it 100%, can it be failure? I think it’s just a learning lesson.
As we’ve progressed with this project we’ve pivoted a little here and there. We’ve learned more and more about navigating this type genre, but I don’t think we’ve failed anywhere.
A Buddhist Nun, whom I respect immensely, once said, “Just because something is hard doesn’t mean you’re not good at it.” That has stuck with me. I love it!
Okay, okay, I have one! There was a migration of thousands of tiny, tiny flies when we were shooting Stage One out on the mountain, in the middle of nowhere. Not one person had bug spray. That was an epic fail! So many bugs! Seriously, so many!
Most of our PermissionLESS readers and listeners are riding the lines between biz and creative, and carving their own paths without much guidance. When you’re self producing, sometimes you have to wear a few different hats, more so than someone who is coming in as purely an actor, or purely a producer. Any advice for juggling both sides of the biz?
It can be tough! As an actor it can be really hard to stand on set of a project you produced and not have your producer hat on. This is where having a team of people you trust is extremely important.
Also, I get very wrapped up in projects.. I am passionate, dedicated and focused. When that happens it is challenging to still find time to commit to going to other auditions, checking in with my agent, and doing the day to day actor work. I am still working on finding that balance.
Speaking of self producing , your latest release, Trials of Ember, has a VR component. Virtual Reality, for as mainstream as it might appear right now, is still relatively new and hasn’t been experienced by the majority. Have you found any challenges with working in a new medium and learning as you go? What has helped you overcome some of the obstacles?
VR is new for me too. One of my challenges is sitting back, listening and learning, while also really wanting to contribute. Jayme and I are both very in tune with how we want the audience to feel. This is a big factor in creating a successful VR experience.
We are also very thankful that we have a director, Steven LaMorte, who is very familiar with the world. He has been producing, directing and editing VR for years. With his grasp of this type of content and the help of Selena Vidya, we have a very well rounded team!
You’re a trained swordsman and perform your own stunts, which a) is badass, because unfortunately as an industry it’s less common to see women actors with a weapons training background and 2) is such a unique sport to take up. What drew you to it originally? How long have you been doing it?
I have been saying I wanted to do stunts since I was about 10 years old. I started creating obstacle courses in my backyard at a very young age. I wanted to create a character and then run and jump around like a badass! Thankfully I have a little brother who humored this mischief.
I’ve been an athlete my whole life and movement has been a huge part of my career. In undergrad I was drawn to movement and dance pieces. In Grad School I had a lot of training in swords, acrobatics, School of Lecoq. When I got to L.A. and found Academy of Theatrical Combat, everything sort of dropped into place. I also met Jayme there!
I’ve been on this path my entire life, whether I knew it, or not.
What’s your underlying “theme” that’s followed you throughout your endeavors and basically lights a fire under you to keep you on the path that you’re on? (for instance, mine is storytelling and community – everything I do, work on, or build involves that in some way):
I like this question! I want to think about this further. Off the top of my head, I think mine is collaboration.
Rowing is a collaborative sport. If you don’t move and work together, you can’t succeed. My favorite quote from George Pocock (one of the “Gods” of rowing) is, “Harmony, Balance, Rhythm. There you have it, that is what life is all about.” Rowing was one the first things in my life that lit a fire in me. Where I sit today is all very reflective of that.
Producing, performing and collaborating with fellow creatives gives me harmony, balance and rhythm! So there ya have it, that is my underlying theme!
Thank you for asking this question! (You’re welcome – It’s one of my faves too! – Selena)
What’s a fun ritual, activity, or thing you do when you need to pull yourself out of being heads down in work, or just a general funk?
MEDITATION! Yes, I go to a center for guided meditation, but for me this can also be hiking, boxing, or even spending time with people I love. I am surrounded by some really special people.
How do you deal with fear or uncertainty when you’re working on something that’s in unchartered waters?
That is Trials of Ember in a nutshell. It’s exhilarating! I keep saying it, but having people around me to lift me up is very helpful. I don’t always know what I am doing, but I do know I have to try.
Which of these PermissionLESS Mantra words do you feel got you where you are now, and which do you want to build upon? BOLDNESS, ADAPTABILITY, FEARLESSNESS, CONFIDENCE
Adaptability is a recurring theme in my life. From moving overseas, to adjusting back in Seattle, to launching myself into L.A., adapting is a key to success. I believe it to be a strong asset.
Fearlessness – Fear of success is a real thing. It’s scary to jump to the next tier in this industry. Stakes get higher and that’s scary. I want to make sure I am not holding myself back because of this fear. That requires and occasional gut check.
What are two badass songs that get you energized and vibing high?
Whoa! Tough one! Music is so visceral, isn’t it? A song plays and I am instantly back to where I first heard it, or a time where I played it on repeat. Music is very important in my life.
Grad school was a really tough time. There are a few songs that I listened to pretty incessantly. They got me through standing backstage, about to go on and wondering what am I doing?! These songs have a special place in my soul. I’m going to keep them to myself. Is that weird? Maybe. Still not gonna tell ya!
Who is someone that you feel truly lives PermissionLESS (it could be anyone – someone you don’t know, someone you do know, etc) and would love to see interviewed?
Another tough one! I know many people who are making bold moves, working to change this industry and tackling tough issues. I’m thankful to be surrounded by awesome people! However, I am going to take the easy way out and tell you that I think Helen Mirren is an incredible inspiration.
Where to find you, and any projects you’re currently working on?
I recently shot two new projects that are both in post production. Exciting, action film pieces. Keep an eye out for updates at – amyschumacher.net and @amyroseschu – Across all social media. Trials of Ember can be found at @trialsofember on all social media, as well as trialsofember.com.
Also published on Medium.